The Locker Room

June 19, 2009

Annexation Reform Friday Part IV: Problem 4

Posted by Daren Bakst at 4:29 PM

Here is the grand finale!

To get the whole story, please read Part I, Part II, and Part III.  The following is the last major problem with the annexation law:

Problem 4

Under existing law, there is no oversight during the annexation process--municipalities can do whatever they want.  There are two issues regarding oversight: Who provides the oversight and what needs to be reviewed?

Who should provide oversight?

A county should provide the oversight.  There is a lot of talk about how everyone needs to compromise.  County oversight is the very definition of compromise.  The annexation victims want a vote.  The League opposes a vote.

The middle ground is to let the county, which represents both parties, oversee the annexation (the county is like an arbitrator between the parties).  This also gives the citizens the voice that they want--a representative voice, but a voice nonetheless.

Some people have said that this would make the oversight political--yes, of course it would!  That's the whole point.  County commissioners are accountable to both municipalities and the residents in the unincorporated areas.

As for the argument that counties don't want this responsibility, who cares? The fact that the counties have sat back and let millions of their constituents get forcibly annexed by municipalities over the last
half-century should be an embarrassment.  I have long argued that the League and municipalities get too much of the blame when it comes to forced annexation.

The only local governmental body that represents the annexation victims isn't the municipalities, but the counties.  The North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) should be thought of the same way as the League--they may even be worse.

What should they review?

Whether an annexation is financially feasible for a city means little to annexation victims.  In simple terms, the oversight body should evaluate the merits of an annexation--is the annexation a good idea or a bad idea?  Is it in the best interests of the municipal residents and the annexation victims?

Is the municipality meeting the requirements of the statute?  The municipality that is initiating the annexation, like someone bringing a lawsuit, should bear the burden of demonstrating that the annexation is a good idea.

There also should be a way for the annexation victims to have their concerns heard through a comment period and a public hearing so that when an annexation is reviewed, both the interests of the municipality and the annexation victims are properly considered.

The PCS: Very limited oversight by the Local Government Commission.  The LGC is not an independent body (four of the five appointed members have direct ties to municipalities).  The LGC is inept when it comes to anything beyond debt management (see the Randy Parton Theater debacle).  It wouldn't know the needs of a local community like a county.

The LGC also doesn't provide the critical benefit of allowing the property owners to have a voice.  In terms of reviewing details of a current annexation, the LGC would only review the financial feasibility of an annexation.

HB 645: There's county oversight and a review on the merits (whether the annexation is good for both the municipality and affected area).

What does it mean to oppose this reform?:  Legislators would have to believe that municipalities should continue to be able to do whatever they want and citizens don't even deserve a voice in the process that is far inferior to a vote.

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Bag Ban Update

Posted by Becki Gray at 4:10 PM

Senate Bill 1018, outlawing plastic bags in three coastal counties along the Outer Banks passed this week in the House, after having passed the Senate 47 - 1 in May as posted here.  Supporters of the bill believe outlawing plastic bags will protect our environment from excess litter and greenhouse gases.

It will be illegal for a retailer to provide customers with plastic bags unless it’s a reusable bag.  Purchases of fresh fish, meat, poultry and produce are exempt from the bag law.  Just to be sure government controls all bag usage, the law also restricts using paper bags, unless it’s recycled paper and allows a retailer to offer incentives to its customers to just bring their own reusable bags.

The vote in the House yesterday was 78-41.  The bill goes back to the Senate for a final nod on a minor change made by the House and then over to the governor who is expected to sign it into law.  The bag ban becomes effective September 1, 2009 in the three Outer Banks counties indicated in the bill.

Think your community is safe from a bag ban?  Don’t.  The bill states….”The General Assembly makes the following findings….. It is in the best interest of the citizens of this State to gradually reduce the distribution and use of plastic bags.”  

Big brother is watching your bag.

 

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In case you missed him … part 2

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 3:04 PM

Increased government involvement in any activity leads to increased bureaucracy and red tape, as Jeff Taylor discussed with News 14 Carolina

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Re: Fat people live longer than skinny people

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 2:09 PM

Roy, thanks for giving me the excuse to point people to MOS BURGER (one piece of Stick Chicken, Y180) and Yoshinoya beef bowl.

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Paper or Nothing?

Posted by Jacob Burgdorf at 2:09 PM

The House moved one step closer to banning plastic bags on the Outer Banks yesterday. They voted 78-41 approving SB 1018 which requires large retailers to only provide paper bags, and incentives for customers to bring their own reusable bags.

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Annexation Reform Friday Part III: Problems 2 and 3

Posted by Daren Bakst at 1:45 PM

This is a continuation of this previous post.  These are two other key problems with the annexation law.

Problem 2

Municipalities try and duplicate existing services.  Often, the municipality will simply contract to provide an extra police officer with a county and call that providing police protection to an area (even though the area already has excellent police protection from that same county).

The PCS: Not only doesn't prohibit duplication of existing services, it expressly allows, for the first time, the duplication of services.  This is a change that significantly helps municipalities.

HB 645: Protects against duplication of services.

What does it mean to oppose this reform?: Legislators would have to believe that it is a meaningful benefit to duplicate services an area already has.

Problem 3

Municipalities force annexation victims to pay for the infrastructure necessary for the municipalities to provide the water and sewer service they are required to provide under the law.  In other words, annexation victims that don't want the water and sewer in the first place, are then forced to pay for the lines to receive these unnecessary and unwanted services.  These costs may be the single biggest problem for annexation victims (even worse than higher taxes): The costs can be $15,000 or more.

Not many people have that kind of money lying around.

The PCS and HB 645: Neither addresses this issue--this problem needs to be addressed.

What does it mean to oppose this reform?:  Legislators would have to believe that even though a municipality initiates an annexation and forces property owners into the city, these property owners should subsidize the municipality in order to help it forcibly annex them (kind of like digging one's own grave).

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Fat people live longer than skinny people

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 1:40 PM

A new study out of Japan finds that obese people live about five years longer than very skinny people while slightly overweight people live the longest. Specifically the results show that:

People who are a little overweight at age 40 live six to seven years longer than very thin people, whose average life expectancy was shorter by some five years than that of obese people.

In other words, being obese shortens your life by about 2 years over the optimal weight, which appears to be what is typically considered a little overweight. But being very thin shortens your life by 7 years. Clearly this study must have been sponsored by the fast food industry in order to build a case against new soft drink and fatty food taxes.

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Someone who won't be invited to the Obama infomercial June 24

Posted by George Leef at 1:33 PM

Sheldon Richman, who tears apart here the deceptive promise the Beloved Leader has made that his plan won't mean that anyone who's now content with his health care arrangements will have to change.

Naturally, only idolators will be given a chance to say anything at the infomercial.

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Progresssive taxes are volatile taxes

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 1:12 PM

Those who want higher taxes argue that more progressive income tax rates are an essential part of their plan to make government tax collections more stable.

California has a more progressive income tax than North Carolina (page 3) and its collections are more volatile. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger now wants a flat tax.

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Annexation Reform Friday Part II: What Needs to be Done

Posted by Daren Bakst at 12:34 AM

I'm not going to mention the need for a vote (we know this is the primary reform).  Every reform that I'm going to mention is unrelated to a vote, yet it still is being adamantly opposed by the League.  They don't have a single argument against these reforms, because they can't be defended against.  All the League can do is put up smokescreens and try to confuse the issues.

The fact that there would be any opposition to these modest and common sense reforms is a real indicator of the true interest in making any compromises. 

"Reformers" couldn't care less about shoestring annexations (which already are illegal), density requirements, better notice, or any other issue that is ancillary to reform.  For example, the League tries to make it sound like it is some major reform to extend the time to appeal a case from 60 days to 90 days.  Who cares?

None of this addresses what the fundamental problems with the law are--and as of now, it looks like legislators simply have no interest in addressing these issues.  In the past, the smokescreens to confuse people would have worked, but they aren't anymore (which is causing headaches for the legislators--the grassroots actually know that they are being sold a lemon).

Problem 1

Areas that don't need one single service are being forcibly annexed.  This is despite the fact that the primary purpose of forced annexation is to promote sound urban growth through the provision of services that offer a meaningful and significant benefit to the annexation victims.

A service doesn't provide a meaningful or significant benefit if it isn't even necessary!

The PCS: Doesn't address this problem.

HB 645:  It addresses this problem through the bill's definition of "area in need of meaningful services."  Under HB 645, a municipality is required to show that a majority of property owners need one meaningful service (not two, three, four, etc--just one).  If they can meet this minimal requirement, they can move forward with an annexation.

What does it mean to oppose this reform?: Legislators would be required to believe that municipalities should be able to forcibly annex without providing one necessary service.

Problems 2-4 coming soon!

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PETA breaks with left--Obama "not Buddha"

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 11:25 AM

It appears that PETA, via its blog, has become the first organization on the left to acknowledge that Barack Obama is not deity but a fallible human being. This point was made as PETA Senior Writer, Alisa Mullins, exonerates the Prez for killing a fly during an MSNBC interview. In excusing, while not endorsing Obama’s act of barbarism, Mullins states that “In a nutshell, our position is this: He isn't the Buddha, he's a human being, and human beings have a long way to go before they think before they act.” It will be interesting to see if other special interest groups on the left reverse themselves and pick up on the “he’s only human” theme when and if Obama proves to be a disappointment on one or another of their pet concerns.

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Annexation Reform Friday Part I: The Latest

Posted by Daren Bakst at 11:20 AM

The House Judiciary II Committee is reviewing 26 amendments to the revised (and even worse) proposed committee substitute annexation bill (PCS).  This bill takes the worse of the League's bill and the worse of another bad bill, HB 524 and then for good measure adds new provisions that don't help anyone (except the cities).

Timeline

Tuesday: A PCS was going to be considered in the J-2 Committee but opposition from citizens was very strong to the bill because it didn't provide any reforms (it completely ignored the citizen's annexation bill, HB 645).  The J-2 committee decided not to introduce the bill and instead discussed the annexation issues and the goal was it would fix the PCS after the meeting, taking into consideration HB 645.  Discussion was actually positive in the J-2 committee.

Thursday: The new PCS is introduced and is actually worse than the first PCS (it still doesn't take into account HB 645, or at least anything worth mentioning).  Opposition prior to Thursday was very strong against this new PCS.  The J-2 Committee was supposed to vote on the even worse PCS, but decided against it.  There were numerous amenndments introduced.  The Committee is supposed to take up the bill next Tuesday and vote on the amendments.

Coming next on what I'm calling Annexation Reform Friday: What needs to be done?

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Half a million North Carolinians are unemployed

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 10:25 AM

North Carolina has the 7th highest unemployment rate in the country (11.1%), the 5th highest increase in unemployment over the past year, and more than 500,000 people without jobs and actively seeking work.

This is not the time for a billion-dollar tax hike, or even a $900 million tax hike. Try a budget that doesn't raise taxes instead.

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And who will regulate the regulators?

Posted by George Leef at 08:42 AM

Professor Tom DiLorenzo skewers the proposal to give the Fed almost limitless power over the financial system here.

DiLorenzo's laws of government are worth jotting down.

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Virginia’s secret?

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:12 AM

The latest U.S. News also lists Washington, Virginia, Colorado, Texas, and Nevada as the five best states to start a business.

The magazine reminds us that “Virginia is known for its low taxes.”

That’s especially true in comparison with its southern neighbor, whose governor is touting tax increases of as much as $1.5 billion.

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As state lawmakers consider $1 billion or more in tax increases …

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:11 AM

… perhaps they’ll consider the following question-and-answer exchange between U.S. News (in its latest print edition) and billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban (that annoying guy at the Dallas Mavericks games).

What are the biggest factors — economic or political — that hold entrepreneurs back?

Where entrepreneurs tend to be stymied is local and state taxes and administrative details. I guess you could call that political. Entrepreneurs get so focused on their mission that when any resources have to be dedicated to hiring lawyers to fill out paperwork or to pay for local fees and applications and taxes, it kills many small businesses before they get started.

I wonder what Cuban would say about plans to increase an uncompetitive state marginal personal income tax rate from 7.75 percent to 8.5 percent.

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In case you missed him …

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:10 AM

Don Carrington discussed new developments in the Easley investigation with Cullen Browder on WRAL last night.

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This weekend on Carolina Journal Radio

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:09 AM

Ending the "death tax" is a positive step lawmakers could take to help boost the North Carolina economy. John Hood explains why in the next edition of Carolina Journal Radio.

Speaking of taxes, we'll learn why Republican N.C. House members rejected tax hike proposals in the House's budget proposal. We'll also hear highlights from the recent Take Back Our State Tea Party, which focused on overly high tax burdens and inflated government spending.

We'll chat with the youngest speaker at that Tea Party, 14-year-old conservative activist Jonathan Krohn, who's written a book called Define Conservatism. And we'll discuss the future of Carolina Journal with new managing editor Rick Henderson.

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Today's Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:02 AM

This week's Carolina Journal Online Friday interview features Donna Martinez's conversation with Roy Cordato about real tax reform for North Carolina.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin's guest Daily Journal explores the potential benefits of killing off the death tax.

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